The second verse of the 23rd Psalm has a word in it that I think a lot of us can relate to, at one point or another in our lives. When the Bible says, "He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters", the word that typically jumps out at me is "make". That word calls me to reflect on the fact that there have been times when I've lost a writing gig, ended a relationship or encountered some sort of obstacle that forced me to slow down and, as a direct result, reevaluate my life—including how I was living it. And you know what? It was all by spiritual design.
I do believe in a Higher Power who sees all, at all times (Psalm 121:4), and knows what is best for me better than I ever will (Psalm 18:30, Matthew 6:8). That is why I have come to accept that while sometimes He either causes or allows (which are not one and the same, by the way) certain things to happen—things that I don't always understand, let alone like—when God causes or allows those things to come together in such a way that gets me still and quiet in order to do some serious ponder and processing, 99.8 percent of the time, I always come out all the better for it, once the season shifts to something of a faster pace.
I'm not sure what your world is looking like at the present moment, but if you feel like things have gone from moving fast to almost a slow creep and you're saying to yourself, "What the heck is going on?!", I've got six reasons, in the form of questions (that you should answer), that could very well help you to see the ultimate blessing in it all.
1. Are You Being Productive? Or Just Busy?
I'm not saying that you should definitely look at it from this perspective, but more and more, I'm training myself to get the word "busy" out of my vocabulary when it comes to statements like "I'm busy". For one thing, it has a tone of arrogance that I don't really like, plus, the longer that I'm on this planet, the more I've come to accept that I'm not really "too busy" to do things. It's all a matter of prioritizing. A great way to illustrate this point is Kenny Lattimore's song "Never Too Busy". Remember how he sang about all of the things he had to do but he was still never too busy for his lady? It was because he chose to put her at the top of the list. In spite of all he had going on, she was important enough to push some other stuff aside.
To me, this is the main difference between being busy vs. being productive. Productive people are creative. Productive people are fertile (fertile isn't just about producing offspring; it's also about producing in an abundant and prolific kind of way). Productive people do things that "yield favorable or effective results". You can easily be busy talking on the phone or watching Netflix; that doesn't automatically make you a productive individual though.
Say that money is tight right now and you've got to let some things go, like maybe your cable bill. While it might suck on the front end, you can read articles like "TV Long View: The Mind-Blowing Amount of Time Americans Spend Watching TV" to see that it could be giving you hours and hours of time back to journal, spend quality time with your partner and/or children or to finally create something for others to buy and/or enjoy.
A lot of people are out here doing stuff while still not really getting anywhere. The slower moments of your life can help you to see if you are actually one of them.
2. Are You Making Wise Plans? Or Following Counterproductive Patterns?
It's no secret that I've not had sex since I was 32 (I'm a couple of months shy of turning 46). In a way, I look at abstinence as a "slow down season". The reason why I say that is because, back when I was having sex, sometimes, I was so preoccupied with the physical pleasure of it that I wasn't paying as much attention as I needed to be the kind—and quality—of partners that I was selecting (check out "14 Lessons I've Learned From 14 Sex Partners"). You know, a wise person once said, "Being still won't stop the world from chaos, but it will stop the chaos from ruling our lives."
Ideally, I'll be married the next time I have sex. I say "ideally" because ONLY people who have gone as long as I have can truly get the challenges that come with it, including the supernatural self-control that is required; so, if a sistah does engage before "I do", I don't want anyone trying to run up some but-you-said receipts on me (you know how folks do). But either way, the kind of man I will give myself to now? He will be quite different than the guys from my past. A big part of that is because slowing down has revealed to me where I was caught up in counterproductive patterns vs. where I was actually making wise decisions (see "Don't Mistake A Great Sex Partner For A Great Life Partner").
Whether it's a matter of the heart situation or some other type of issue, another benefit that comes from slowing down is it can cause you to get off of your own "hamster wheels", so that you can ask yourself, "What am I doing?" I can give you the space to see if you are making choices that are wise (knowledgeable and discerning) or if you are simply…doing what you always do, because that's the way you've always done it?
"Counterproductive" is a powerful word. It means that you're doing things that are causing you to actually thwart your goals or defeat your purpose in life (ugh). I don't care if it's a person, place, thing or idea, it's also a good idea to let the slower moments in life cause you to think about if you are being smart or making some pretty stupid decisions. Anything that keeps you from your goals and purpose? You already know what category those fall in.
3. Are You Resting? Or Just Sleeping?
This one is big—and also very underrated. It's already bad enough that 70 percent of Americans are walking around here being sleep-deprived. Boy oh boy, I can only imagine how many folks are not exactly resting. What's the difference? If you go to a lot of dictionaries, one word that will come up in the definition of rest is "refreshing"—refreshing sleep and refreshing ease. When something is refreshing, it is pleasant. When something is refreshing, it's also able to give you the ability to restore your power and energy.
I've been a Seventh-Day Sabbath observer ever since I was born. I don't use Friday sunset thru Saturday sunset to sleep the entire time. I do use it to rest, though.
Sadly, some people have not rested in so long that they don't even realize they deserve to feel refreshed, on a regular basis. When it comes to your daily life routine, slow down and ask yourself 1) how much sleep am I getting (it needs to be no less than six hours a night) and 2) how much resting am I doing?
4. Can You Be at Peace with Yourself and Your Own Thoughts? Or Do You Rely on Noise and Activity to Be Diversions for You?
There's someone I know who once told me the story of taking a vacation, sitting on a beach, opening a book and only being able to sit there for about an hour before deciding to return home. In many ways, this person is an extrovert, so being alone is automatically a challenge. However, I've known this individual for a while and the other thing that they are is ladies' man and quite the hustler. He knows that certain things he does in order to get what he wants can be morally shady, at best. So, I've pointed out to him, on several occasions, that his inability to be still may be that he is afraid to be with his own thoughts (and conscience). After all, a wise person once said, "The quieter you become, the more you can hear."
People who don't know how to be still and quiet make me uncomfortable (for them). What is it about yourself that you don't want to be alone with? Sometimes, the slower moments in life force us to have to ask—and answer—that question. Remember how the leading quote at the top of this message said that being still means moving in peace? Above all, this should speak to inner peace (see "Here's How To Know You're At Total Peace With Yourself").
If you've always gotta be out, always gotta be online, always gotta be doing something that involves other people—that might not be so much about you being "outgoing" as you don't want to deal with some deep-rooted inner issues; ones that you can't even grasp a hold of unless you get still and quiet.
For a lot of people, the Universe is doing them a favor by allowing their life to (temporarily) slow down. For many, they wouldn't get to know themselves any better—including the soul and spirit—and stop making poor life choices any other way.
5. Are You Living the Quality of Life That You Desire?
Quality. It's a word that speaks to what is essential, what is superior…what is excellent.
Aristotle once said, "The quality of life is determined by its activities." And so, in order to know if you are doing what is personally essential, superior and excellent for you, you've got to slow down and look at what activities you're partaking in.
To me, quality of life also speaks to being an authentic type of person. You're not putting up fronts. You're not constantly placing others needs before your own. You're not settling in your romantic relationship. You're not putting up with toxic family members or friends. You're not afraid to set boundaries and to say "no". You know what your purpose is and you are living it out. You don't do things to merely pass the time; you do things that are an investment into your time. In short, you are living in such a way that, if you know that you were going to die today, you would have very little regret.
Folks who are constantly moving about (whether it's mentally or literally) never really get a chance to contemplate a question like this. If you are currently in a slower moment, make sure that you do. It's an epidemic, how many people are out here are wasting—"to consume, spend, or employ uselessly or without adequate return"—their time. Please make sure you aren't one of them.
6. Stillness. Do You See It As Being a Blessing? Or a Curse?
Let's end this with one more verse in Scripture. A very simple-yet-profound verse is "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!" (Psalm 46:10—NJKV) While many of us have different interpretations of God, it's been reported that 63 percent of us absolutely believe that He does indeed exist. Adding to that, you can read articles like "Why People Who Pray Are Healthier Than Those Who Don't", "How Prayer Strengthens Your Emotional Health" and "47 Health Benefits of Prayer" and see how beneficial it can be for your mind, body and spirit, to get still enough, on a daily basis, to acknowledge a power that is far greater and higher than yourself.
That's what I find to be so dope about Psalm 46:10. "Be still, and know that I am God" is not a biblical suggestion; it is a biblical instruction. It means—get stationary enough, be quiet enough, remove yourself from the people and things that disturbed you long enough to remember that, no matter what is—or isn't—going on right now, God is present and He's got you.
Out of all of the hidden blessings that can come out of the slower moments of your life, mastering how to pray and meditate (Psalm 119), consistently, so that you can move in a state of confidence, steadiness and even tranquility? That is probably the biggest one of all. Slow down enough so that you can see it too. Watch how it betters your life because you did.
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